January: Waste Management 101

January is the month where the festivities slowly fade out and we engage into routine again, we have new motivation and plans, high energy to start conquering our dreams and everything looks good, however it is also a month with a very high level of waste that was generated by gifts, newly bought things, fireworks…etc. It is the best month to take a moment and think about waste.

“When most of us toss something into the trash, we give it no further thought. We’ve done our part – consume item, dispose of item, move on. Trash is an unpleasant but necessary part of our daily lives, and most of us are happy to end our relationship with a product as soon as it ceases to offer any value.” -roadrunnerwm.com

What is waste?

“Waste” is everything we generate that we dispose of because we consider it useless, there are many different components to waste, organic matter, inorganic matter, biological matter, etc. when everything is thrown together without sorting, all the elements combine and contaminate each other generating hazardous chemicals that affect human health. 

Waste in many cases is taken to landfills where it is buried destroying the soil around it, in regions without resources it ends up on the land surface, coast or the ocean without any treatment whatsoever, as this mixed waste decomposes either alone or in a landfill it releases toxic gases into the atmosphere and the water, it becomes a toxic pile that also requires a lot of energy to be processed and worst of all it is mainly composed from elements that while separated they could be recycled and transformed.

The cycle of waste

Photo Credit: talkingretail.com

We buy things that generate waste- waste goes to landfills, land surfaces or the ocean- contaminated soil, water and air produce a contaminated environment- our bodies eat, drink and breathe contamination- slowly we generate health problems for ourselves such as cancer and other diseases.

How to reduce the damage

When we separate waste, the elements keep their value, the energy that it takes to manage a landfill is reduced and our environment is cleaner, materials that can be re-used and spared from becoming contaminated, as a community we could also save money reducing the amount of waste that goes into the landfill, a lot less plastic would end up in the ocean and in our food chain, our overall health would be increased.

Waste Management

If it’s all mixed up it’s “Trash/Waste” if it’s separated it is value/money.

Quick overview on how to separate

  1. Organic matter- All food scraps, peels, coffee grounds, tea residue, dust, egg shells…etc. can be combined with leaves, wood, soil and oxygen to become a rich fertilizer through compost. Compost can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, you can do it individually or in groups. For more information look for our compost guide.
  2. Plastic– We generate a lot of plastic waste mainly through packaging. The best thing to do is to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate (e.g. shop with re-usable bags, shop in bulk, shop for only glass or carton packaging). When separating plastic make sure each item is clean and dry, use a special bin or a biodegradable bag for disposal.
  3. Metal- Also found in packaging like food or drink cans, this category also includes aluminum foil and metal drink lids from beer, juice or jams. Store it clean and dry. TIP- In some countries you can sell the metal to local recyclers and get a bit of extra money.
  4. Glass- Glass is 100% recyclable and re-usable, jars can be re-used for buying in bulk, cooking or food storage, glass bottles can be recycled and made into new clean ones, some bottles are returnable so you can also get a little money out of them. Store them clean and dry for disposal.
  5. Paper and carton– There is a lot of paper produced in the world and the cost at an environmental level is huge, however it has a better recycling rate than plastic. Store paper and carton dry and clean, use as little paper as you can.
  6. Rest- The biological waste like blood or body eliminations, (e.g. used diapers or menstruation pads), this must be separated in a different bag or it will contaminate everything else.

Normally each city has it’s own recycling schedule for pick up, in other cases you take your materials into gathering points.

It might sound like more work than just throwing everything into the bin but separating “Waste” is a really effective way to start healing and avoiding health problems in the future.

Factual benefits about managing your waste:

  1. If every household separates and manages their waste we can reduce the size of landfills by 50% therefore reducing water, air and soil pollution, energy consumption and taxes.
  2. Recycling your waste improves your awareness and sense of responsibility which lead to an ability to focus on the things that matter more to you.
  3. With this awareness you are more likely to make sustainable choices while shopping and learn to reduce, hence saving money.
  4. More than 60% of what ends up in landfills can be recycled if separated, improving the quality of the soil, water and air that are necessary for a healthy life.
  5. Choosing a re-usable container for a product instead of a plastic package can save the life of your children and grandchildren (a plastic used for just minutes in a package will stay on the earth for no less than 500 years).

Furthermore, with the environmental crisis we are facing nowadays, it won’t be long before governments are forced to implement this system (and more radical measures) on a mandatory basis, so it’s better to get started now.

What are you doing to reduce your waste?

-Cristina G

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